So here we are again. Catfish and the Bottlemen, third album, ‘The Balance’. Same tunes, same lyrics, same black and white aesthetic, which has never been more apt considering the almost complete lack of colour on this album.
The only real distinctions in style between ‘The Balance’ and its predecessor ‘The Ride’ is the slightly dodgier production and the scrapping of the usual slow acoustic numbers. Other than that, you could sellotape ‘The Balance’ onto the end of ‘The Ride’ and nothing would sound out of place.
Get your Catfish bingo sheets out, it’s all there. Monotonous song structures? Check. Abrupt endings of tracks? Check. Using big words without knowing what they mean? Check. With every passing tune you’re just left wondering whether the album has looped back round to the start again.
Instrumentally there are a few little signs of life, with Johnny Bond trying his best to resuscitate numerous tracks with some solid guitar solos, and the way the time signature switches up on ‘Mission’ is definitely a glimmer of creativity. Overall though, it’s incredibly frustrating; it always seems that a track goes quiet when it needs to be loud, and vice versa.
Van McCann is a songwriter that writes about the world around him and his own experiences, which was fine back when he was a spotty teenager chasing girls around a small town. Now he’s lived on a tour bus for several years, his experiences aren’t at all relatable anymore, and it seems like he hasn’t realised that yet.
Frankly, listening to him talk about conversations with his driver and getting a bollocking for being late on stage is not only completely out-of-touch; it’s really dull as well. At least he seems to be going on a bit less about smoking all the time.
Catfish don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be interesting again, but it would be nice if they at least tried to do something different. Their upcoming tour seems to be selling pretty well and undoubtedly they’ll sell out shows for years to come, but their indifference towards experimentation will catch up with them eventually. It’s a one-way ticket to washed-up nostalgia band territory.
Some say “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, but that doesn’t apply to things that are being branded as ‘new’ when they’re clearly not. Can you be disappointed if you knew exactly what to expect? A little bit I suppose.